What is a guitar lick? Unlocking the secret to mind-blowing solos!(with videos)

It's possible that you've run across the word "guitar lick" when reading about the music you play on a guitar. It frequently comes up, and you'll see and hear other guitarists refer to "licks" all the time.

So what is a guitar lick? A guitar lick is only a brief musical line without a clear context or central subject. This implies that this set of notes, or "lick," can be repeated in other songs or musical compositions.

The same or similar licks may be heard in a variety of tunes and compositions. When playing tunes, solos, or improvising, a guitarist learns a range of licks that may be slightly modified and repeated.

Continue reading to learn more about what is a guitar lick, its significance if you don’t want sound monotone and boring, and how it differs from a riff. Let's start.

What is a guitar lick?

A brief phrase played over a chord progression is known as a guitar lick. A lick is a group of notes played repeatedly to add flavor to a song or other piece of music.

However, the licks lack a clear concept. Rather than being an entire riff or solo, they are more like a fragment of an idea. Thus, licks are frequently utilized to spice up and add interest to songs. They are frequently referred to as "fills" or "runs" for this reason.

They are used by guitarists to offer variation, alter the tone of a tune, and even create brand-new music.

What is a guitar lick?

Why is called lick?

The reason they are termed "licks" doesn't appear to have a clear-cut explanation. Although its use in relation to jazz may be traced back to 1932, it is extremely probable that it was initially employed in the 1920s.

It's believed that the phrase "lick" was first used to refer to a tiny quantity of playing or notes on the guitar because the word "lick" may indicate "a small bit”.

Whatever its source, the expression has persisted and entered the vocabulary we use to talk about guitar music and playing the instrument.

Guitar lick example

BB King - “Thrill Is Gone”

If you want to know what is a guitar lick, the legendary BB King is responsible for some of the finest blues guitar licks. The song “Thrill Is Gone” is a superb illustration of how he uses his guitar to convey his emotions with incredible licks scattered throughout the song.

Dire Straits - “Sultans of Swing”

The Dire Straits song “Sultans Of Swing” is the one to listen to if you want to hear a lot of well-known guitar riffs. The song's two outstanding solos, as well as the licks between each verse, are played by the legendary guitarist Mark Knopfler.

Do guitar licks matter?

Yes, if that were the case, music would be lot more boring! Licks are little embellishments that increase a tune's excitement and curiosity.

Do guitar licks matter?

The type of lick played also works well with a variety of musical styles. There are musical licks, such as funk, rock, and blues licks, that go well with that kind of music.

And within those musical genres, you can hear the same guitar licks being played by several guitarists in various songs. A lick's versatility allows it to be used again or slightly altered by adding and deleting notes and this is an important point to grasp when you want to understand what is a guitar lick.

The importance of practicing guitar licks to improve improvisation skills

The key to developing one's improvisational abilities is to practice guitar licks. A guitarist's ability to improvise may be improved by learning different licks and understanding their composition and structure.

Learning a variety of licks will give a guitarist the ability and assurance to make up new songs on the spot while infusing their playing with their own distinctive style.

Furthermore, using licks in improvisation can make it easier for a musician to negotiate chord changes and provide diversity to their performance.

The musician may express themselves more fully through their instrument by practicing and combining guitar licks into improvisation to produce more dynamic and engaging performance.

The importance of practicing guitar licks to improve improvisation skills

Tips for memorizing and practicing guitar licks to improve muscle memory and speed

For any guitarist wishing to advance their playing, learning and honing guitar licks is a crucial skill. Developing muscle memory is essential for success so that the fingers can play the notes automatically.

Practice the licks slowly and thoughtfully, increasing the tempo gradually over time, is one of the greatest methods to do this. Another useful suggestion is to divide the lick into smaller chunks, concentrating on each chunk separately until it is well-memorized and rehearsed.

Muscle memory may be developed and overall speed can be improved by using a metronome to keep time while progressively increasing the tempo.

To ensure that the licks become a natural part of your playing style, it's crucial to include them into a regular practice schedule.

Tips for memorizing and practicing guitar licks to improve muscle memory and speed

The use of technology to create and modify guitar licks

Technology has completely changed how guitar players produce and adapt their licks, giving them new tools to do so. Guitarists may add a variety of effects to their sound, from distortion and reverb to delay and modulation, using effects pedals, for instance.

Guitarists may precisely record, edit, and modify their licks using digital audio workstations (DAWs), giving them the opportunity to experiment with a variety of sounds and genres.

The use of technology to create and modify guitar licks

These instruments provide guitarists even more creative flexibility and enable them to advance their playing to new levels by allowing them to produce wholly new sounds and stretch the instrument's capabilities.

Guitar lick vs guitar riff

The role they each perform inside songs is the primary distinction between a lick and a riff. A song or composition's central theme, frequently repeated throughout, is known as a riff. A riff is primarily the song's concept and what most listeners recall.

Guitar lick vs guitar riff

A lick, on the other hand, is a brief string of notes that is utilized to improve and spice up a song. They are frequently used as quick fillers or while improvising. But unlike a riff, a lick usually isn't as memorable or significant on its own.

A riff can contain both single notes and chord progressions, but a lick often consists of a sequence of single notes, and this is important to understand what is a guitar lick.

In essence, licks are the solo patterns utilized as decorations, whereas riffs are the repeating fundamental melodies of songs.

Guitar riff example

Michael Jackson - “Beat It”

One of the most renowned guitar riffs in music history is found in Michael Jackson's hit song “Beat It”, The song's riff, which is catchy and stylish, is repeated several times.

The White Stripes - “Seven Nation Army”

The White Stripes' song “Seven Nation Army” has another well-known riff. The riff's easy-to-remember, rhythmic nature helped it become so well-known; it may be heard in a variety of performances, activities, motion pictures, and advertisements.

Deep Purple - “Smoke On The Water”

The riff from Deep Purple's classic hard rock song “Smoke On The Water” is arguably the most well-known in the whole rock world. You have undoubtedly heard the riff even if you haven't heard the song. It is a superb illustration of what a great riff should be since it is straightforward, catchy, and memorable.

What is a guitar lick - Conclusion

So now you know what is a guitar lick, why we use them, and how they differ from other types of riffs. As we found, the purpose of guitar riffs and guitar licks is highly distinct from one another. Both guitar riffs and licks, though, are essential tools for honing your playing abilities.

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Frequently Asked Questions

A guitar lick might it be an element of a guitar riff?

You may use a guitar lick in a larger guitar riff, yes. In truth, many famous guitar riffs contain recognizable guitar licks that are performed as part of the riff.

Only rock music uses guitar riffs and licks, right?

Contrary to popular belief, a broad variety of musical genres, such as blues, jazz, country, and many more, use guitar licks and riffs. The majority of musical genres have them as a common element.

How can I learn guitar riffs and licks?

It takes time and effort to master guitar chords and licks. You might start by dissecting the licks and riffs of your favorite guitarists' songs. Online tools that teach you how to play various guitar licks and riffs are also available.

Are I able to make my own guitar riffs and licks?

Absolutely! The capacity to compose your own music is one of the benefits of playing the guitar. Create your own distinctive guitar licks and riffs by experimenting with various chord progressions, scales, and melodies.

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Written by CalypsoRoom Editorial Team
The CalypsoRoom Editorial Team is a skilled and diverse group of writers, researchers, and industry specialists who have access to Calypso's data and information in order to give you broad knowledge about the music industry as well as helpful advice to help you manage your music and dancing career.

Updated January 2023

What is a guitar lick? Unlocking the secret to mind-blowing solos

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